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Coronavirus: What we know today, June 4

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Follow this post for rolling updates on the impact of the coronavirus in South Australia, the nation and the world. Today, South Australia once again has no active cases of COVID-19.

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Refresh this page for updates – scroll down for links to official health information.

KEY POINTS

No new cases, no active cases

South Australia is again without an active case of COVID-19, for the first time in nine days, when it recorded a shock new positive result.

SA Health have notified that with no new cases yesterday, that single case is no longer active.

The positive test was that of a woman in her 50s who was returning to SA from overseas on a controversial exemption to visit her dying father – with her bungled transfer from Victoria prompting an apology from SA authorities.

SA’s total confirmed number of COVID-19 cases remains at 440.

State fees and charges to rise

Treasurer Rob Lucas has today revealed a series of increases in fees, fines and charges for the coming financial year.

He said most would increase by the standard indexation rate of 1.9 per cent, arguing that the Government had limited the increases to normal levels despite the budget challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The increase covers conveyancing fees, speeding and other fines, court-related costs and those associated with Births, Deaths and Marriages such as registering a change of name.

“Under the schedule, motorists caught speeding by less than 10kph will be fined an extra $3 (to $180), those travelling by 10kph or more but less than 20kph above the speed limit will be charged an extra $8 (to $406) while those driving without wearing a seatbelt will pay an extra $7 (to $388),” Lucas said.

“Motorists caught using a mobile phone while driving will be charged $544 (up $10).”

He argued the fees were reasonable.

“The fee schedule for 2020-21 reflect a standard, or normal, increase despite significant budget challenges as a result of COVID-19,” Lucas said.

Grants of $25,000 offered to renovators and home builders

Australians with grand designs on a dream home will get a $25,000 gift from taxpayers as the government looks to keep the construction sector building.

The $688 million HomeBuilder program will offer the grants to people who sign contracts to build or substantially renovate their home from Thursday until the end of the year.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says this will drive a “tradie-led recovery” of the economy.

“If you’ve been putting off that renovation or new build, the extra $25,000 we’re putting on the table along with record low interest rates means now’s the time to get started,” he said on Thursday.

The grants are open to people earning less than $125,00 a year, or $200,000 per couple.

They can be used for new homes valued up to $750,000 including land, or renovations worth between $150,000 and $750,000 that will result in the property being priced at $1.5 million or less.

The money can’t be used on investment properties or to build things outside the house such as swimming pools, tennis courts, outdoor spas and saunas, sheds or garages.

Work has to be done by a licensed builder, so owner-builders and DIY renovators miss out.

The program is demand-driven, but the price tag suggests the government expects about 27,500 people to take up the offer.

Before the virus, the sector forecast 171,000 new builds would start this year but that has now dropped to 111,000.

Grants will be paid via the states once each jurisdiction signs up.

South Australian Labor leader Peter Malinauskas wants the State Government to match the federal scheme to prevent a “massive collapse” of the housing industry.

“Housing construction work is about to fall off a cliff and the Marshall Liberal Government cannot just rely on the Commonwealth package,” he said.

“The Commonwealth grants need to be backed with a State Government stimulus.”

The State Government promised it would soon announce new stimulus measures for the housing and construction sector, but ruled out adding to its existing $15,000 incentive for first home buyers – a scheme that was in place before the pandemic.

“We won’t be adding to the grants or abolishing stamp duty, however in the next week or so, we will announce a package of further measures to help stimulate the housing and construction industry,” said Treasurer Rob Lucas.

Adelaide Uni warns of $250 million shortfall

University of Adelaide acting vice-chancellor Mike Brooks has given staff a grim update on the hit to the institution’s financial position caused by the pandemic.

In a note to staff yesterday, Brooks said the university had added to its previous modelling that revealed it faced a $100 million shortfall against budget in 2020.

“We estimate that our financial challenge in 2021 is set to extend to a shortfall of up to $150 million,” Brooks said. “This brings the potential shortfall across the two years to $250 million.”

The university aims to protect jobs, but is flagging pay cuts and extended leave for staff over Christmas.

No new cases in SA

SA Health reported there were no new cases of COVID-19 in its latest update yesterday afternoon.

One active case remains.

Source: Australian Department of Health

Qantas to schedule more domestic flights

Qantas has announced the airline and its low-cost carrier Jetstar will scale up flights on domestic and regional routes in June and July.

It says capacity will increase to 15 per cent of pre-coronavirus levels, or more than 300 more return flights a week, by the end of June.

Australia’s flag carrier is currently operating domestic capacity at just 5.0 per cent of pre-coronavirus levels following government restrictions on travel and stood down two-thirds of its 30,000-member workforce until the end of June.

Qantas said capacity could be increased up to 40 per cent of the group’s pre-crisis domestic capacity by the end of July, depending on demand and further relaxation of state borders.

The airline will boost services on capital city routes, particularly Melbourne-Sydney and a number of routes to and from Canberra.

It will also increase intra-state flights for Western Australia, Queensland, NSW and South Australia.

Qantas said it would also begin flights from Sydney to Byron Bay after the route launch was was postponed due to the coronavirus.

UK COVID-19 death toll surpasses 50,000

The United Kingdom’s COVID-19 death toll has surpassed 50,000, according to a Reuters tally of official data sources that highlighted the country’s place as one of the worst hit in the world.

New data from Scotland brought the toll to 50,059, a dire milestone for Prime Minister Boris Johnson as he tries to ease the stringent coronavirus lockdown.

The Reuters tally mainly comprises fatalities where COVID-19 was mentioned on death certificates in England, Wales and Northern Ireland up to May 22, and up to May 31 in Scotland.

Unlike the daily death toll published by the government, the death certificate figures include suspected cases.

The Reuters tally also incorporates deaths that took place in English hospitals after May 23, and in Wales and Northern Ireland.

Nearly 10 million tested in Wuhan blitz

The Chinese city of Wuhan, where the coronavirus was first detected late last year, has tested nearly 10 million people in an unprecedented 19-day campaign to check an entire city.

It identified just 300 positive cases, all of whom had no symptoms. The city found no infections among 1,174 close contacts of the people who tested positive, suggesting they were not spreading the virus easily to others.

That is a potentially encouraging development because of widespread concern that infected people without symptoms could be silent spreaders of the disease.

“It not only makes the people of Wuhan feel at ease, it also increases people’s confidence in all of China,” Feng Zijian, vice director of China’s Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, told state broadcaster CCTV.

There is no definitive answer yet on the level of risk posed by asymptomatic cases, with anecdotal evidence and studies to date producing conflicting answers.

Wuhan was by far the hardest-hit city in China, accounting for more than 80 per cent of the country’s deaths, according to government figures.

A city official announced Tuesday that the city completed 9.9 million tests from May 14 to June 1. If those tested previously are included, virtually everyone above the age of 5 in the city of 11 million people has been tested, said Li Lanjuan, a member of a National Health Commission expert team.

“The city of Wuhan is safe,” she said at a news conference with city officials.

The campaign was launched after a small cluster of cases was found in a residential compound, sparking concern about a possible second wave of infections as Wuhan emerged from a 2 1/2 month lockdown.

OFFICIAL SOURCES OF ADVICE AND INFORMATION

Local updates and resources

State Government central information

SA Health

Mental health support line (8am to 8pm): 1800 632 753.

National advice and information

Australian Government Coronavirus information hotline: 1800 020 080

Government information via WhatsApp: click here

Travel

Australian Government travel advice: smartraveller.gov.au

Check your symptoms

Free, government-funded, health advice: healthdirect.gov.au

– Reporting by InDaily staff, AAP and Reuters

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